Cruel and unusual punishment

This short story was written based on a prompt at Critique Circle which basically amounted to “The devil, an app and a teenage school kid with a problem”. There was an additional constraint of not editing while writing, which I respected to a degree there, but here I have fixed a few embarrassing typos and mistakes.

“What the Earth am I supposed to enter on this screen? I’ve typed my name twice already and that was not easy either time, now you ask for it AGAIN? I swear this blessed phone is going to end up in the—YES, WHAT?”

The boy in his bloody shredded clothes at the office door stuttered.

“Er… I was sent down here… I think…”

Satan looked him up and down. “I can see that. Why?”

“Er… They said I’d had impure thoughts”.

Satan’s eyes rolled — the devilish, not human, way.

“And they sent you down for that? Never mind. Why did the reception desk send you here?”

“They didn’t. There was no one there, only a sign that said “No reception until local network is back up again”. I waited for ten minutes there.”

“… Ten minutes.”

Kids these days.

“Never mind that too. I have no time for handling small fry.”

Satan pressed the speed dial for his Director of Operations and raised his phone to his hear, then pulled it away. Even the kid had winced in pain from a good ten feet away at the screech that had emanated from the device.

“I’ll be… Argh, nothing’s working! Alright, let’s sort you out, that’ll calm my nerves. So. Impure thoughts got you here, but what got you up there first?”

“Wha?”

Satan sighed. Kids, third millenium, adjust expectations.

“Why did you die?”

“Er, because I hit concrete from the fourth floor.”

Satan blinked.

“… And why did you hit concrete from the fourth floor?”

“I… think… it was an accident. Beef didn’t really want to let go of me, he was just bullying me, but he kind of fumbled.”

“Was that in any way related to the impure thoughts you mentioned earlier?”

“I… don’t think so. I mean, Ella and Beef are not family, and I don’t think they ever… you know…”

“Let me check that just to be sure.”

Satan snapped at the laptop, which obediently opened to a blue screen with a few unintelligible lines and a sad smiley.

“AAAAARGH! NOT AGAIN!”

He snapped more forcefully. The laptop burst into flames.

“Let’s do it the old fashioned way.”

Satan’s eyes went entirely gray, then a voice boomed in the room.

YES?

“Sorry to disturb you now, but we have a slight p—”

I AM NOT THE ONE WHO INVENTED COMPUTERS, SON. YOU WANTED IT, NOW DEAL WITH IT.

“No, not that problem. The kid. He got up because he was killed, they sent him down just for impure thoughts. I mean, I don’t complain per se but you’re going to feel pretty lonely soon enough if—”

DO YOU QUESTION MY JUDGEMENT?

“… No.”

GOOD THEN. DON’T DISTURB ME AGAIN FOR… SMALL FRY.

Satan “hung up”. Bastard. And yes, that’s a professional assessment. He turned to the kid.

“Why did this… Beef… bully you?”

“Excuse me but… how is it important?”

“To determine your eternal punishment.”

“Oh… Well, Beef is sort of the leader there, I mean…”

“The would-be alpha wolf, if there were such alpha wolves, which won’t happen as long as wolves remain smarter than humans. I know the type, I collect them as a hobby. I could show you videos if the God-forsaken servers were not DOWN FOR SIX DAYS AND COUNTING! Go ahead.”

“So, er, I’m not really strong or…”

“OK, you’re the wimp he picks on, only this time it went a bit too far. Right. I guess the fourth floor is the library?”

“Er, no. It’s the IT level.”

There was a long silence.

“You’re a computer geek?”

“Er… I guess so. I mean, I’m the IT club’s president.”

Satan smiled. Curiously, the boy thought, this one was not scary.

“Your punishment now and forever will be to keep this CURSED THING” — Satan gestured around — “in working condition.”

Satan pulled a drawer, extracted a quill and a piece of parchment on which he scribbled a few lines before handing it to the boy.

“You’re hereby allowed to order anyone about around the place — except me, of course — as long as the phones, computers, networks, printers, etcetera, work properly. You will only rest when everything works, and believe me, that’s going to be exceptional. Now GET GOING!”

The boy’s face formed a slow smile, then he rushed out. Seconds after, Satan’s phone let out a brief beep and displayed a progress bar under the words “UPDATING”.

Satan sat down in silence. Sent down for impure thoughts, yeah, right. Without even going through the gray-eye etiquette, he just uttered “Thank you.”

YOU’RE WELCOME.

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